Facing Cameron's transition, was an extremely difficult process for me and it stirred up some unexpected emotions. I found myself grieving as I anticipated the loss of my son - which brought with it the reality that I would never have a daughter-in-law and the greater loss, no biological grandchildren. In prior discussions, Cameron was repulsed by the prospect of dating or marrying a woman. Consistent with a female gender identity, Cameron was interested in boys. Through this process, I realized that there is a huge difference between considering a possibility and embracing a reality. Truly acknowledging and accepting Cammie's gender identity meant embracing the reality that biological children would never be a possibility for her. This was not only difficult for me, but has been quite upsetting for Cammie. She continues to hold onto the notion that she has ovaries. She sees herself carrying and mothering children, not "fathering" children. I have explained that she has a "daddy's" body and can have babies with a woman, but that she will never be able to get pregnant or give birth to her own children. For her, this is the most emotionally devastating aspect of being transgender. She has a maternal instinct, and inasmuch sees herself "mothering" children. She continues to scavenge for possibilities and frequently asks questions, "Mom... how do they know I don't have eggs when nobody has ever checked. Couldn't I have girl parts inside?" When I share the bleak reality of her situation, her eyes well up with tears and the emotional devastation is palpable. Cameron has adamantly asserted that having children with a woman is not an option. I can't imagine what it must be like for her... It's the equivalent of telling someone who's sexual orientation is straight that they would have to enter into a homosexual relationship to have a family.
Then there were other areas that intensified my grief. She could dress like a girl, but no matter how convicted she felt about her gender identity... it was obvious that she would experience puberty as a male. She had already approached me, distraught because she had begun to experience erections. The last thing that any girl wants is a penis... let alone, one that frequently and unexpectedly announces it's presence. She has been horrified by these experiences and had asked if there was anything that I could do to "make it stop". She has an older brother who is experiencing puberty, and watching him go through puberty panics her... it's a daily reminder that her body is going to "deform" in ways that she cannot bear to consider. She frequently experiences bouts of anxiety over impending voice changes, facial hair, and other aspects of masculinization. I knew that if I didn't educate myself and advocate for her best interests, her depression and anxiety would intensify. In my heart, I knew that she would become a statistic. She would either become a victim of her own self-loathing or a victim of a hate crime. The horrific thoughts associated with the dangers presented by the reality of her circumstance stabbed at my mind... She's going to be perceived as a freak by society... how devastating for her - to be so misunderstood - to be the person on the sidewalk that women, out for a walk with their children, cross the street to avoid. She's going to be perceived as a sexual deviant, a burly man in a skirt with make-up plastered over the top of a five o'clock shadow... the perfect target for ignorance and hate. I felt my own depression mount. I didn't want to get out of bed... face my job... my family... the world.
I knew that I needed to fight the depression that was mounting in my soul. I continued to pray about the situation and felt that the only way that I would feel better is to fight for my child's happiness... to find the answers. "There's got to be a better way," I thought, "There has to be a solution". I began to research treatment options for transgender children. It wasn't easy in the beginning but one door led to another door, which led to another. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by a wealth of information and resources. I learned that the nationally recommended plan of care for transgender children (endorsed by endocrine experts world-wide) was pubertal suppression. I learned that Cameron could take hormone blockers which would prevent the masuclinization of her body and give her time to mature emotionally so that she could make the decisions that were right for her. I felt comforted and at peace. I have never felt the Lord's presence in my life more profoundly than I did during this difficult time. I knew that - although our challenges seemed fierce - we were not alone. The Lord was my co-pilot and we were navigating our way through the blessings of adversity.
The next step... and probably the most dreaded, was telling family and friends. How do you share this information with the people that are the closest to you? How do you tell everyone that knows your child that your son is really your daughter? I couldn't bear to make one-on-one phone calls, to try to convey ten years of experience in a telephone conversation with each and every soul that had a significant relationship with our family. Emotionally, I was suffering and the thought of repeatedly sharing our experience, trying to justify our decisions to everyone around us, or convince people individually that our course of action was right would require more strength than I had in my arsenal. What if I forget important details? I felt compelled to construct a blog so that I could take my time and tell our story the way that it needed to be told. I made the decision to send an e-mail to friends and family, invite them to the blog, ask for their support and understanding, and provide them with additional resources. I decided that if they loved us, they would make efforts to educate themselves. If it was important to them to understand, they could pray for insight. I wasn't going to "spoon feed" everyone around me. I was willing to "do the shopping, prepare the meal, and even place the plate in front of them... but I wasn't going to feed anyone." I was exhausted and needed to conserve my strength so that I could focus my energy on the needs and well-being of my husband and children.
There is so much to tell all of you, and so much to catch you up on. We are facing some big steps with Cameron. I started a blog and would like to invite you to visit us there : http://cameronsong.blogspot.com If this is the first time that you are hearing about Cameron's challenges, you might benefit from a visit to the blog before continuing to read this letter.
I started the blog so that I could tell our story and help educate our close family and friends about Cameron's history and our direction with her treatment. I am including some articles that will help you to understand our focus with all of this (you will find them attached). I have learned so much over the course of the past couple of months that Cameron has been in therapy. As I may have mentioned to some of you, there are no gender specialists in Birmingham so I have had to go to Atlanta to find anybody qualified to handle Cameron's special needs. It has been a challenge - overcoming one hurdle after another - and a challenge that I know many of you can relate to on some level, so I feel especially comfortable sharing the details of our journey with you.
I've had to jump through several "fiery hoops" to get financial coverage for her treatment in Atlanta since my insurance provider doesn't cover out-of-state therapy. The support and understanding that we have gained through our decision to face this - as opposed to forcing her to be gender obedient, deny her natural instincts, or hide from who she is - has opened my eyes to so many things that should have been obvious all along. We are moving forward with confidence and making some great strides. Please take some time to read the articles that I am forwarding. They will go a long way in catching you up to speed. Also, there is a fantastic book out right now that I am reading called ..."Transgender Child - a handbook for professionals and families". It clears up a lot of misconceptions about trans-gendered children. For too long, transgender has been a dirty word.... followed by a leap to the conclusion that these individuals are mentally "twisted" or sexually deviant. Research (see the study attached) has gone a long way in proving that gender identity is - in fact - biological. There is one very compelling study that proves that transgendered individuals have the identical biological gender identity markers of the gender that they identify with. Interestingly, homosexuals did not show the same variation... proving that gender identity and sexual orientation are distinctly different topics. The only congruency is that both topics are related to sexuality. On that note, heterosexuality is also a topic based on sexuality but societal norms have clearly drawn a distinction between heterosexuals and homosexuals. I am learning how to love and accept my "daughter" for who "she" is and realize that gender identity goes far beyond a strict sexually binary society and our physiological characteristics. Gender identity is biological, but the development of that identity - in rare cases - is inconsistent with physical development.
Anyway, where am I going with all of this rambling??? After a great deal of time spent on my knees in prayer, doing independent research, consulting with experts on this topic, and - most importantly - listening to my child... our family has made a very difficult and fundamental decision. Per Cameron's request, through confirmation received by the power of prayer, and the advice of her counselors - we have chosen to allow her to live her life consistent with her psychological gender identity. This summer Cameron will make an "environmental" transition to living her life as the little girl that she was meant to be, and has always known that she is. It's a huge step for us... a step that has taken ten years to climb. She will eventually begin hormone blocking therapy to prevent the masculinization of her body, (something that has horrified her for years). When she is emotionally mature and can appropriately comprehend the magnitude of her choices, she will have the option to begin feminizing hormone therapy and pursue SRS.
I know that this is a tough pill to swallow. I understand because it's something that I have been struggling with and praying about for years. I feel very blessed to have received divine guidance through answer to prayer. These answers have manifest through the peace and comfort of the spirit. Children born with debilitating physical abnormalities are not expected to "live with them", simply because "God created them that way". If there is one thing that I know to be true... that I have a profound testimony of - above all things - it's the fact that God loves his children and would never expect them to suffer. In fact, it is evident that it causes him great pain. In the midst of the Crucifixion , the Lord could not bare to watch his son suffer... Matthew 27:46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? The torment and persecution of his son was more than he could endure. Likewise, this suffering is more than these children and those who love them can endure, as illustrated by a recent research study that demonstrates - 36% of transgendered children attempt suicide by the time they are twenty years old. Recently, two ten year old boys - in different parts of the country - hung themselves in their basements because of the incessant ridicule, rejection, and isolation of a society that cannot understand why they expressed gender variant behavior. My daughter will not be a statistic. I have prayed about this and received an answer that I cannot deny, just as I cannot deny that Christ is my Savior... the answer was simple, but profound... "Love this child... even as I have loved you." The peace and guidance that I have been blessed with throughout this journey has been a gift from the Lord. I love my Father in Heaven and I am thankful for the strength that he has given Cameron... to be patient with me... to teach me... to accept me despite all of my short-comings... and most importantly - to be patient with me as I have come to understand her.
Transgendered conditions are mother nature's genetic variations of sexual identity... much as cleft palate, Downs Syndrome, Autism, Ash burger's Syndrome, etc are the result of abnormal development. This is not - in itself - a psychological condition... but the strict binary sexual society that we live and expect ALL people to conform to does extreme psychological damage to these children and ultimately results in secondary psychological conditions that manifest through anxiety, depression, chronic low self-esteem, and suicidal ideations. I hope that our family will have your support throughout our journey... as we continue to get to know and love our daughter... a little girl who has hid in the shadows of a society and family that has failed to understand her for far too long.
With all of our love,
Christina, Cameron, & the boyz
I learned very quickly that the people closest to the experience struggled the most. I expected the most support from those who loved us the most, and the harshest judgement from those who had the least involvement with our family. What I found was quite the contrary... those closest to us were the most resistant and those with the least at stake, offered the most support. I received an onslaught of e-mails, some were anonymous and some weren't, but the majority attacked my position, questioned my motives, and attempted to "save my soul" from damnation. I was extremely hurt as I came to realize that, with a situation like this, it's best not to have expectations. There is no way to gauge how someone will react. Especially, initially. I realized that those who loved us the most, were the most resistant and would need the most time. Dealing with personal attacks from those that you love requires a great deal of faith and patience. The most important thing that I would come to realize is that they were hurting too. In the meanwhile, I decided to pray for their understanding with the hope that they would make efforts to educate themselves. For the time being, however, my focus needed to be on our family and tending to the needs of all of our children, solidifying relationships, and promoting love and understanding within the walls of our home...
When we shared the news with our children, the two youngest boys were relatively unaffected... oblivious and anxious to squirm their way out of the family conference to go play. Our oldest child made a lighthearted comment that seemed to bring the situation into focus, "Whatever makes Cameron happy... besides, it's not really a surprise mom... I've always known he was a girl." I prompted more thought, asking him how he would feel and react if his friends began to tease him about Cammie's self-expression and gender identity. His response surprised me, "They aren't going to care... I don't know... I mean (then he looked at Cammie who was sitting beside him on the couch)... Cameron, would you want me to beat them up?" I had to smile at the Christlike love and compassion that Caleb demonstrated... at least for Cammie. He wasn't at all concerned about himself, his primary concern was for her well-being. Later on when I sat down alone with Caleb to address the topic in private he said, "To be honest, mom.... I'm feeling a little protective."
I've never been more proud of my children. In that moment I knew that as we faced the challenges that lie ahead, our family would learn some valuable things and grow in beautiful ways...